WASHINGTON—The U.S. is finalizing plans to give Kyiv its coveted Patriot missile-defense systems, U.S. officials said, following months of Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, cities and civilian infrastructure.
If the Biden administration goes forward, the Patriot would be the most sophisticated system the U.S. has provided Ukraine since the war began in February.
could sign the directive providing the Patriot as early as this week, the officials said. President Biden would then have to approve the request. The White House National Security Council didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ukraine has long called for the West to supply Patriot missiles batteries—most recently since Russia began attacking Ukraine electricity and other infrastructures. With millions of Ukrainians in the dark as winter sets in, the requests have become more urgent.
On Monday, Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal reportedly told French broadcaster LCI that his nation needs Patriots to defend its infrastructure and stop Russia’s bid to overwhelm Europe with Ukrainian refugees escaping electricity shortages.
It couldn’t be determined how many launchers the Pentagon could send or from where it would source them. A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, on Tuesday declined to discuss the prospective deal or why the U.S. would consider providing Ukraine with the systems. Last month, a U.S. defense official told reporters “all capabilities are on the table,” when asked whether the administration was considering sending Patriot batteries to Ukraine.
The Patriot was one of several international responses Tuesday to a war centered on infrastructure attacks. Delegates from dozens of countries and international institutions gathered in Paris and pledged more than 1 billion euros in aid, the equivalent to around $1.05 billion, to Ukraine, according to French officials. Delegates discussed ways to provide urgent access to water, food, energy, transport and healthcare in Ukraine throughout the winter, French officials said.
the exiled Ukrainian mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, said a bridge linking the city to the nearby village of Kostiantynivka had been attacked, suggesting that Ukraine is determined to continue attacks on Russian forces and infrastructure used by the Russian military.
CNN first reported the Pentagon’s plan to give Ukraine Patriot missile systems.
A mobile system designed to defend against missiles and aircraft, the Patriot is produced by
Raytheon Technologies Corp.
Lockheed Martin Corp.
producing the missiles it fires. It can target ballistic and surface missiles from miles away, and U.S. commanders across the world have sought them for their accuracy and long-range defensive capabilities.
Patriots are a cornerstone of the Pentagon’s fast-deployable air defense capabilities and have been in heavy demand, particularly in the Middle East, for years.
The U.S. has provided nearly $20 billion in military aid this year, but has declined to provide much of its most advanced weaponry to the Ukrainians for fear of escalating the conflict into a wider war with Russia. The U.S. has held back Gray Eagle MQ-1C armed drones, as well as the ATACMS long-range missile system, which would be capable of reaching deep into Russian territory.
Because the Patriot missile system is defensive in nature, it doesn’t raise the same concerns within the Biden administration about escalation as other U.S.-provided weapons systems.
Last month, the first National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or NASAMS, produced and delivered by the U.S., Norway and Spain, arrived in Ukraine, according to a tweet from the Ukrainian government. The two delivered NASAMS were the longest-range systems provided so far.
In addition, the U.S. has sent Ukraine 20 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, or Himars, and a large inventory of satellite-guided rockets with a range of almost 50 miles. Those rockets, known as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, have been used to strike Russian ammunition depots, supplies and command centers on Ukrainian territory, and Ukraine has described them as among the most consequential weapons of the war.
On Capitol Hill, critics of the proposed Patriot deal raised concerns about the cost to U.S. national security of providing Kyiv the Patriots, particularly while China is modernizing its military and stepping up its military posture in the Taiwan straits.
“Everybody wants to help Ukraine defend itself against ballistic and cruise missiles,” a congressional official said. “But this is the first system where we are going to really hash this out because we don’t have enough for ourselves.”
Last month, Germany offered to send a Patriot to Poland after a missile landed in Polish territory, killing two citizens. Poland initially said a system should go to Ukraine first, but reportedly last week said it would accept Germany’s offer.
The U.S. Army has said it takes nearly six months to train operators to use the Patriot, though industry officials briefed on the Pentagon’s plans said this could be compressed to half that time. Raytheon, which has said it produces around one Patriot system a month, declined to comment.
The Patriot missile became famous during the 1991 Gulf War, when it was used to shoot down Iraqi Scud missiles. The system was later used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to defend nearby troops in the region.
In the spring 2020, the U.S. pulled two Patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia and two others from the Middle East, signaling waning concerns about Iran’s military escalation. The systems, along with dozens of military personnel, had been deployed to the region a year earlier following a series of attacks on the Saudi oil facilities.
The Biden administration earlier this year transferred a significant number of Patriot interceptors to Saudi Arabia, fulfilling Riyadh’s urgent request for a resupply of the munitions it needs to fend off drone and missile attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, a senior U.S. official said.
Raytheon says it has supplied the system to at least 17 countries. A Patriot missile battery of eight launchers takes as many as 90 soldiers to run, including maintenance crews, transporters and radar operators, according to the U.S. Army.
—Gordon Lubold and Doug Cameron contributed to this article.
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